Everyone who's seen it seems to agree that Charles Busch's newest play, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, is funny. More than funny: "laugh-filled," "witty" and "hilarious." It's a specific kind of funny, too, the kind that centers on New York City and has at its heart a wry, desperate, intellectually pretentious, passionate, unfulfilled but extremely wealthy middle-aged Jewish matron. Before penning this, Busch was known primarily for such spoofs as Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. The character of Marjorie Taub evolved from a six-minute drag act in his show Flipping My Wig.
Taub will be played in Denver by Valerie Harper, who succeeded Linda Lavin on Broadway. Harper is best known as a sitcom character (many of us were actually a lot more interested in Rhoda than in Mary on the Mary Tyler Moore Show), but she's also a distinguished stage actress whose performance garnered raves in New York.
As the play opens, Marjorie Taub is in a funk because her therapist has died. Her doctor husband is a humanist who cheerfully provides succor for the poor and uninsured; her mother, who lives down the hall, kvetches endlessly about her digestive system. Taub has realized that her talents are insufficient for the brilliant, meaningful novel she'd like to write, and she's undergoing a full-blown midlife crisis. At this point, a glamorous girlhood friend re-enters her life, tossing names about like confetti: Nixon, Kissinger, Warhol, Princess Di. She shakes Taub out of her doldrums and prods her and her husband into risky and unfamiliar territory.
Although this is still the Lynne Meadow-directed version of the play, only one member of the highly praised New York cast (other than Harper) will appear in Denver. He is Anil Kumar, who plays the sexy doorman Mohammad. It's a little daunting to imagine this small, clever play, which premiered at the Manhattan Theatre Club before traveling to Broadway, in the cavernous Auditorium Theatre, but word is that Harper's got the energy and ebullience to make it sing.